REVIEW: “The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter” by Sam J. Miller

Review of Sam J. Miller, “The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter”, Tor.com (2017): Read Online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.

I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up this story to read, but it wasn’t a gay love story of sorts told during a post-polymer kaiju apocalypse. That said, I’m certainly here for it.

The story takes a science fiction framework and props it against a very human backdrop. The technobabble we expect is here, but it takes a back seat to a story about three core characters: Otto, our first-person narrator and former drug addict; Trevor, Otto’s controlling boyfriend with the too-perfect exterior; and Aarav, the visitor who comes between them. The story is split into two distinct halves: a key night before the kaiju made of programmable matter wreck New York City, and life in the refuge camps of upstate New York.

The prose has its moments of beauty, though in places it leans toward the overwrought. The frequent run-on sentences give it a breathy, babbling, almost nervous quality which can sometimes be grating.

But despite the mechanic flaws, the emotional core of the tale is powerfully depicted. Miller draws a realistic picture of Otto as a recovering addict, constantly worried that he’s not good enough, that he’ll fall back into his old destructive habits. And even though Otto thinks Trevor is perfect, Miller’s skillful depiction lets the reader know how much Trevor takes advantage of Otto’s mindset. It’s a heartbreaking tale, for much is lost on both macro and micro scales, but it’s also one of self-empowerment for Otto. Well worth a read.

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Danielle Maurer

Danielle Maurer writes fantasy and science fiction novels featuring tragic villains and publishes SFF book reviews on her blog. When she’s not hiding under her writing rock, she digitally markets things at her day job and reads while walking like a modern-day Belle. You can find her on Twitter at @WryRaconteur.

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